SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - While firefighters in the heat of battle work the frontlines to keep wildfires from spreading and devouring property, there is another army of people operating behind the scenes performing a task perhaps equally as important.
“We’re here to provide meals for first responders and those that are evacuated,” said Tim Kilcoyne, Director of Chef Operations, World Central Kitchen.
World Central Kitchen (WCK) responds to disaster zones all over the world to feed those on the frontlines and evacuees forced to flee their homes.
On Tuesday, they prepared food for firefighters working to stomp out the CZU Lightning Complex Fire in Santa Cruz, where crews often find themselves battling fires in remote areas for long periods that are not easily accessible.
That’s where WCK comes in to help by preparing food and taking them to fire crews in far to reach places.
“(We're) kind of hitting all the strike teams… all the fire stations that currently need support and are not able to get to the base camp throughout the day. So we’re willing to provide them with a fresh, hot, healthy meal or a sandwich, piece of fruit, a salad and things like that," Kilcoyne said.
The nonprofit was started by celebrity chef and restauranteur Jose Andres and for years has operated around the world.
On a more recent response, Andres provided food to first responders and victims on an explosion at a port in Beirut, Lebanon.
Organizing to provide food in disaster zones around the world is a momentous feat and a logistical challenge that WCK says it overcomes by partnering with local restaurants in disaster areas.
“When we respond we look for an empty restaurant, an empty event space that has a kitchen. Something like that or we’ll build out our own kitchen," Kilcoyne stated.
For the CZU Lightning Complex fire, WCK set up shop in the kitchen of Barceloneta, a restaurant in downtown Santa Cruz, where volunteers prepare food for first responders and then transports them to the frontlines.
World Central Kitchen has already responded to the LNU and SCU fires.
Volunteers are made up of chefs from restaurants across the Bay Area, who respond to the kitchens that World Central Kitchen sets up to prepare meals.